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COVID is less severe with Omicron than Delta, U.S. study suggests -Breaking

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© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: This illustration photo taken on January 15, 2022 shows a test tube labeled “COVID-19 Omicron variation test positive”. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Manojna Maldipatla and Leroy Leo

(Reuters) – The Omicron variation appears to cause less severe COVID-19 transmission than previous periods of high coronavirus transmission, including the Delta wave. According to a U.S. study, Omicron may result in shorter hospital stays and fewer deaths.

The Omicron variant, which is rapidly spreading, has caused record-breaking numbers of hospitalizations and infections, straining America’s healthcare system.

Despite the dramatic rise in COVID, hospitalized patients admitted in ICUs during this Omicron wave were about 29% less than last winter’s surge and 26% more than during Delta wave. This was according to a study published in Tuesday’s U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Death Weekly Report.

According to the study, lower COVID-19 severity was likely due to greater vaccination coverage and booster use by those who are eligible.

The study found that deaths in the Omicron peak period of Dec. 19-15, when Omicron infection rates were high, were 9 for every 1,000 cases. This is compared with 16 in the winter peak and 13 in the Delta wave.

These findings are in line with prior data analysis done by the CDC from South Africa, England, and Scotland where Omicron infection rates were higher than those found in the United States.

According to the agency, children are more likely to be hospitalized during Omicron than adults due in part because of lower rates of vaccination. The United States does not offer vaccines to children under 5 years of age. Older children are more likely to be vaccinated than adults.

This study was based on data from three surveillance systems and a large database of healthcare records. It assessed U.S. COVID-19 characteristics between Dec. 1, 2020, and Jan. 15, 2022.

One limitation to this study, according to authors, was the inability of it to rule out incidental infection in patients who are hospitalized for any reason and then test positive for COVID. That may inflate hospitalization-to-case ratios and affect severity indicators.

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